Warmer weather can mean more human encounters with snakes

Reports from Utah and Salt Lake Counties indicate homeowners are encountering rattlesnakes in their back yards in areas where homes have been built higher up in the foothills.

Terry Messmer, Extension Wildlife Specialist at Utah State University, advises that while walking in the wilds, if you hear a rattlesnake’s rattle, you must stop immediately.

“Take a sense of your situation,” Messmer explains. “What’s going on? Then, based on that, if you locate the snake, visualize the snake, just gradually move away from the area. The last thing the snake wants is an encounter with a human being.”

Messmer says some people are surprised the number of snake bite victims who die from their injuries is low because immediate care is given.

“Any time you are bitten by a snake you need to take it seriously,” he exclaims. “You need to pursue and get the correct medical attention. So, what’s happened, is a lot of folks are doing that. We actually have more folks each year that are killed by bites from bees, wasps and hornets.”

Dr. Messmer said there are 31 species of snakes in Utah, seven of them are venomous, and all seven are rattlesnakes.

“When someone has been bitten by a venomous snake, time is of the essence,” says Messmer. “If possible, call ahead to the emergency room so anti-venom can be ready when the victim arrives. Until then, keep the victim calm, restrict movement and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.

“Wash the bite area with soap and water. Remove any rings or constricting items, as the affected area will swell. Cover the bite with clean, moist dressing to reduce swelling and discomfort.

“Monitor the victim’s vital signs (pulse, temperature, breathing, blood pressure). If there are signs of shock, lay the victim flat and cover with a warm blanket. Get medical help immediately. If possible, bring in the dead snake for identification if this can be done without risk of injury.”

More information about snakes is available at WildAwareUtah.org.

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